Dr. Sapna Ramnani

School

University College Dublin

Year

2020

Keywords

Documentary production, Journalism, Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Interview techniques, Disability

Thesis Title

Gaining Independence in Documentary Production through Assistive Technology: On-camera Interview Techniques Developed by, with and for People with Complex Disability

Abstract

The primary focus of this study will examine methods to enable film-makers with communication impairments to take a more active role both in front of and behind the camera. This could potentially provide a means of being in control of the interview situation when making documentary films for those documentary film-makers with disabilities who are currently misrepresented and under-represented in the media.

The author of this study is an independent documentary film-maker with Cerebral Palsy that affects her motor functions. Being a wheelchair user with a speech impairment impacts on the way she produces documentaries. She will conduct a series of trials during which she will reflect upon the interview process by carrying out interviews on-camera using various techniques to communicate. The data acquired from these trials will be used to discuss on-camera interview techniques for film-makers with communication impairments.

Currently, when people with disabilities are shown on-camera, the emphasis is on their impairment and focuses on the differences between them and non-disabled society. Often films are made about their triumphs in overcoming obstacles in life that non-disabled people take for granted. Channel 4's Born to be Different and Marilyn Gaunt's Lynn and Ralph: A love-story are examples of this tendency. In the author's opinion, this is an unhealthy approach to the portrayal of people with disabilities in the media. It is superficial since it promotes a patronizing, rather than an inclusive view of living with disability. The author aims to overturn this portrayal of disability by engaging in interviewing the subjects of her films herself while not focusing on and explaining her disability to the viewer.

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Bio

The primary focus of this study was to examine methods to enable film-makers with communication impairments to take a more active role both in front of and behind the camera. This could potentially provide a voice for people with disabilities who are currently misrepresented and under-represented in the media.